My heart was pounding, my vision got blurry and then came back to normal, and I was sweating like I’d been out running in the sun all day. I was standing in the church nursery at nine years old staring blankly right at her, wondering what the heck I had just agreed to. She was sitting on the arm of that big old armchair kicking her legs back and forth and smiling right back at me.
A few minutes ago down the hall, I was feeling totally unstoppable, as all nine year olds do when they are bragging to their friends. So telling them that I would go kiss her didn’t seem like such a big deal. They hadn’t even dared me; it’s like I dared myself, just to prove how brave I was. And now I was having second thoughts. What was I thinking? Shelly was four years older than I, and as we all know, four years at that age makes all the difference in the world.
In my mind, she was the picture of beauty and true womanhood, so my crush was unreasonably strong. And even though I wasn’t brave enough to talk to her, I had somehow concocted up the idea that this first kiss would be the start of our lifelong romance. Whoa! Where was I going with that? I’ve got to stay focused and see if I can actually pull this off.
My friends were standing behind me grinning and giggling, and I don’t doubt that they thought I would never follow through.
You see, I always made ridiculous claims and then tried to pull them off. In fact, just the week before I watched my 18 year old friend, Jason, ride his BMX bike off, what I remember to be, an eight foot high jump. No big deal right? I said, “I can do that!” And before I knew it, I was speeding down the driveway toward the wooden ramp I had built, starting to second guess my cocky attitude and lack of planning. But giving up after you’ve started never seemed like a good idea to me. In just a few more moments I was soaring through the air, feeling like the Wright Brothers must have felt at their first flight at Kitty Hawk. The breeze streaming past my face and over my forehead made my dirty blonde hair blow backwards, and I saw the ground passing below me and then;
THUD! Crack, ouuuch! I couldn’t breathe, my mouth tasted funny like – oh yeah, that’s blood – and I didn’t think I had ever felt such terrible pain between my legs as at that moment. I realized the bike was under me and on top of me at the same time, and I started to try and roll over and get free of my metal flying machine.
Jason had now made it to my landing zone, and he was laughing as he helped me get up and asked me if I was okay as I walked slowly, doubled over, to the nearest tree and sat down.
“I’m …… fine!” I managed to gasp out as I tried to learn how to speak six octaves higher while still trying to recover from having the wind knocked out of me. “I just lost control of the front end and, and, and nose dived, I guess.” After a few minutes my voice started to sound more like mine, and my injuries were beginning to numb.
Tomorrow, I would probably be walking a little funny, but I had to figure out how to recover and try again. And I did. I jumped off that ramp again and didn’t crash the next two times. That was good enough for me. I figured out how to jump my bike off that ramp and walk away even though I never forgot the crash. I remembered to keep my nose up at the end of the ramp. You’ve got to land on your back tire if you want to have a chance of pulling it off.
The part that always had me coming back for more was those first few moments when I was flying. For just an instant, I was unstoppable. The world was flying by and I could taste the freedom and glory. Most of the things that I do today taste just like that. I dare myself to do something no one else has done, and then I jump. Sometimes I crash, but I try to get up and fly again. Those moments when I’m flying are addicting, and they’ll never ever leave me.
I was standing there wondering what would happen after I made this brazen attempt to kiss my first true love. But thinking seemed useless compared to action, so all of a sudden I was off and running.
You know when your favorite football team is on their own 30 yard line, the score is tied, and it’s 3rd down with 20 seconds left in the game? The play starts, and everything slows down as you watch. The quarterback drops back behind a wall of jostling linebackers and out shoots the receiver like a rocket. Somehow he’s managed to slip through the line and then…there it goes, that Hail Mary pass that’s so high that you don’t know how he’ll ever see it, let alone catch it. But he’s running, looking up behind his shoulder and charging towards the end zone. You’re holding your breath… waiting, hoping, and feeling like you’re that running back, charging forward with all your might to catch the impossible pass, to reach the impossible goal.
That was me. Running forward towards the impossible goal and looking back at my friends whose expressions were turning from smirks to open mouths of awe and wonder. You could see them thinking, “Oh no, he’s actually going to do it!”
You know how right at that moment when the ball drops into view and bobbles in the receiver’s hands, how he starts to lose his footing as he’s crossing the line into the end zone? I don’t know why our brains lose focus on getting one foot in front of the other, but that was me. I had charged through what seemed like 70 yards of opposition (all 15 feet) towards the goal line, and as I saw Shelly’s face go from a beautiful glowing smile to a look of bewilderment, I leaned forward as she turned her cheek and smack! I had placed a nice kiss right on her cheek just as she lost her balance and fell backwards into the chair from her sitting position on the arm of the chair. I had fallen on top of her, and by this point, both she and I were the brightest shade of red I have ever felt my face turn. There wasn’t time for an end zone dance; there wasn’t time to think! I found the nearest exit and ran as fast as my short little legs could take me, all the way outside to the parking lot, so I could put my hands on my knees and lean over and catch my breath.
Wow, I did it. I kissed a girl. I did it. I did it. That was amazing!